Project

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Danielle pulled the strap of her backpack closer, saying a silent prayer before plunging into the crowded hallway on the way to her dorm room. She made herself as small as she could possibly get while walking—shoulders hunched over, head down. She figured if they didn't see her, the chances of them touching her would decrease dramatically. Crazy since how would someone who didn't know another person walked by manage to get out of the way?

She never justified her way of thinking. The bottom line: no contact of any kind with anyone.

The camera hanging from her neck swung from side to side when she dodged a stupid jock who thought nothing about throwing a football down the hall to his equally stupid roommate. Danielle exhaled a curse as the projectile sailed over her head. No one thought to yell duck or anything helpful like that.

She plastered herself against the wall and breathed. The jock hooted and the rest of the hall cheered as if a touched down was scored. College. She huffed. If she didn't need the education, she would have quit freshman year.

When her heart stopped beating its way out of her chest, she pushed away from the wall and sprinted. Screw getting touched. She had more horrible things to worry about.

Her professor had given out final projects. She trembled. Her chances of graduating, hell her very future, depended on its completion. But she couldn't do it. The more she thought about what she had to do the more the idea of dropping out during her last semester seemed appealing.

A degree? Who needed it? Being an artist anyway in this economy was a struggle anyway. Not like a piece of paper could magically make things better.

She stopped just outside her dorm room, staring at the scrunchy on the knob. What was she thinking? Of course, she needed a degree. Artistic photography only took her so far. The degree would help bring in jobs that would pay for everything else while she compiled a portfolio.

If she wanted to show at the top galleries in the city she needed a job, and if she wanted a job she needed the degree, and in order to get the degree she had to complete her requirements, which meant accomplishing the dreaded final project. Oh, why did the nude introspective have to land on her? Of all people?

She lifted her gaze to the stucco ceiling. Fate had a sense of humor and it bordered on cruel.

Maybe her roommate could help?

Confused and more than a little freaked, Danielle reached for the scrunchy-clad knob and pushed her way in.

"Silvie?" Danielle squinted into the darkness. "You here?"

A gasp, a thump, and several muffled curses greeted her entrance.

"Silvie, why is it so dark in here?" Danielle shut the door and flicked the light switch. "You wouldn't believe—"

The sight of a half-naked boy on the floor interrupted the rest of Danielle's sentence. Eyes wide, she stumbled against the door, her heart in her mouth, preventing a scream from coming out.

Recognizing the hard breathing and the deer-in-the-headlights eyes, Silvia covered herself with her comforter, raised a hand, and calmly said, "D, breathe. That's it, sweetie. In and out. There's no need to scream. Nothing happening here."

Without removing her gaze from her panicked roommate, Silva gestured for the boy on the floor to leave.

He gathered his things slowly, knowing the drill. Any sudden movements could set Danielle off. Judging by the way she scratched grooves on the door with her fingernails and the pale pallor of her face, she came really close to losing it. He pulled up his pants without fully straightening from his crouched position. Not bothering to buckle his belt, he felt around for his shirt.

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